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4 Jaw Pain Triggers That Are Costing You a Good Night’s Sleep

When we’re busy, we tend to think that we can get buy on just 4-to-5 hours of sleep. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lack of sleep can affect your health in many ways, putting you at risk for conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and weight problems. Sleep deprivation also decreases our ability to cope with pain and stress.

If you are living with a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), or have TMJ problems that haven’t yet been diagnosed, you may actually dread lying down at night. TMD and jaw pain can make sleep difficult, leading to a long night of tossing and turning, pain and discomfort, and of course, overwhelming fatigue the next day. It’s a vicious cycle that will only continue until you get to the root cause of your TMD. Sadly, for many patients, this can take years.

Are are the most common triggers for nighttime jaw pain and what you can do about each.

Jaw Pain Trigger #1: The Wrong Mattress

If you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s over 10 years old, it’s probably time to replace it. Mattresses aren’t designed to last more than a decade, and many will start to break down well before this time. This can mean you’ll get improper support to keep your back and neck aligned, which can lead to tension in the facial muscles. As a result, you may wake up with a headache, a tense jaw, sore TMJ muscles, and general achiness. This pain may also bother you during the night, costing you valuable rest.

Even if your mattress isn’t old, you may be sleeping on one that isn’t right for you. A mattress that’s too firm can create pressure points that can aggravate jaw pain. Too soft, and you may find yourself sagging into the middle and sleeping with a twisted or turned back. The position of your neck and back has a direct effect on the health of the TMJ, so you want them all to be aligned as you sleep.

Jaw Pain Trigger #2: Sleeping on Your Stomach

Sleeping position is largely dependent on comfort and habit. Some people are side sleepers, some love to sleep on their backs, and others sleep on their stomachs. Stomach sleeping, however, could be doing more harm than good where your jaw is concerned.

When you sleep on your stomach, you could be straining your back and neck into a backward position, which causes misalignment of the jaw and worsened TMJ symptoms. If you use a pillow, this can cause even more backward curving and pain. This puts undue pressure on the lumbar spine as well.

Stomach sleeping also puts pressure on the face itself as it is pressed directly into a pillow or mattress. Even a slight push on the jaw at night can lead to major headaches and jaw pain in the morning. You may also notice ear ringing when you wake, which can be a result of the jaw’s pressure near the ears.

Jaw Pain Trigger #3: A Bad Pillow

Many people get attached to their favorite pillow and, as a result, keep it for years beyond its prime. But a pillow has one critical job: to keep your head and neck aligned with your back while you sleep. Whether you sleep on your side or back will also impact the size, shape, and firmness of the pillow.

Know your favorite sleeping position and choose a pillow that keeps your back and neck straight while you’re in that position. In general, a pillow for a back sleeper will be softer and flatter than one for a side sleeper. A side-sleeping pillow has to be supportive enough to keep your neck straight against the height of your shoulder.

Jaw pain trigger #4: Grinding at Night

Nighttime grinding can be the result of many things, including stress, muscle tension, or one of the three issues mentioned above. This habit wears down your jaw muscles and causes TMD symptoms in many people. But, resolving it is not as simple as buying a bite splint.

To stop grinding for good, you’ll need some help to find out the root cause. It could be a combination of stress, back, neck, or jaw misalignment, tooth problems, and more. Talk to us at Pasadena Pain Management. We are heavily experienced in treating TMJ problems and orofacial pain. Together, we can get to the bottom of your grinding and what can be done to give you much-needed relief — and better sleep.

How to Get Better Sleep 

Finally, if you’re looking for some ways to get better sleep in general, we recommend:

  1. Invest in a proper mattress and pillow as mentioned above.

  2. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

  3. Try deep breathing, meditation, or other stress relief measures, especially at night before turning in.

  4. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

  5. Don’t take naps unless absolutely necessary.

  6. Keep your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees.

  7. Use blackout curtains or white noise machines if sounds or light are disrupting your sleep.

Are you having jaw pain or other symptoms of TMD? Get the facts about this condition and find out what can be done to help. Call our team at Pasadena Pain Management to set up your appointment.

About Pasadena Pain Management

Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta® treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.